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Boba Fett had four lines in 'Empire Strikes Back.' How he ended up with his own TV show

LA Times logo LA Times 12/30/2021 Tracy Brown

During the post-credits scene of “The Mandalorian” Season 2 finale, famed bounty hunter Boba Fett walks into the headquarters of a criminal syndicate to kill a former associate and take over.

The lingering shot as Fett takes his place on the throne — with his lieutenant at his side — makes the message abundantly clear: It’s his time now.

Debuting Wednesday on Disney+, “The Book of Boba Fett” follows Fett (Temuera Morrison) as he establishes himself as the new crime lord in charge among the local scum and villainy, along with his faithful right hand, Fennec Shand (Ming-Na Wen). The “Star Wars” spinoff series will also fill in some gaps about what Fett has been up to between the events of “Star Wars: Episode VI — Return of the Jedi” (1983) and his appearance in “The Mandalorian.”

Fett’s time in the spotlight has been a long time coming. Created more than 40 years ago, the fan-favorite bounty hunter is among the “Star Wars” franchise’s best known and most popular characters despite his limited presence in the original trilogy.

Featured among a group of bounty hunters assembled by Darth Vader, Boba Fett makes his live-action debut in 1980’s “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back” played by Jeremy Bulloch. According to “Under the Helmet: The Legacy of Boba Fett,” Fett clocked in with just six minutes and 32 seconds of screen time, speaking a total of four lines.

Still, his few moments were memorable. A mysterious character clad in battle-worn armor who pilots a unique ship, Fett helps Vader track the heroes on the Millennium Falcon to the floating Cloud City, where the crew is captured. And though he's a man of few words, it’s clear Fett is unafraid of Vader or the Galactic Empire and is more concerned about ensuring he can collect the bounty on Han Solo, who he later delivers to the fearsome Jabba the Hutt.

Origins

Fett’s cult status means that much of the lore around his conception and introduction is as well-known among “Star Wars” fans as the character’s in-universe back story.

Conceived by “Star Wars” mastermind George Lucas as new type of super trooper to be introduced in “Empire Strikes Back,” Fett was designed by the film’s art director (and future filmmaker) Joe Johnston and concept artist Ralph McQuarrie. Budgetary constraints led Lucas to reconceptualize the character as a lone bounty hunter, and the original all-white version of his iconic armor was transformed into the one we recognize today.

Fett’s public debut came a couple of years before he was seen in “The Empire Strikes Back.” His first onscreen appearance was on television in an animated segment that aired as part of the notorious “Star Wars Holiday Special” on Nov. 17, 1978. The short sees a much chattier Fett befriend Luke Skywalker after saving him and his droids, only to be revealed as working for Darth Vader.

But Fett’s first public appearance came shortly before this, when the character walked in a local parade in San Anselmo, Calif., with Darth Vader, in September 1978. (“Empire Strikes Back” assistant film editor Duwayne Dunham was the person under the Fett armor in the parade.)

After "The Empire Strikes Back," the bounty hunter returned briefly in “Return of the Jedi,” where he is still in Jabba’s circle. When Luke comes to Han’s rescue, Fett is (accidentally) knocked into the giant mouth of a sarlacc in a sand pit and is assumed to have perished.

His appearance in “The Mandalorian” proves otherwise.

Back story

Although Fett’s mystery was part of the bounty hunter’s original appeal, Fett’s official back story was revealed during the prequel trilogy in 2002’s “Attack of the Clones.” The second installment of the prequel trilogy introduces Boba’s father, Jango Fett (Morrison), a bounty hunter who was used as the template for the clone soldiers of the then-Republic’s army.

It turns out Boba is an unaltered Jango clone — meaning the scientists who created him did not modify him in any way, unlike the clone soldiers who were created with different enhancements. He was created in exchange for the donated genetic material, for Jango to raise as his own.

But bounty hunting is a dangerous life, and young Boba (Daniel Logan) watched his father be killed by Jedi master Mace Windu during a battle that led to the Clone Wars. He’s seen cradling his father’s helmet in the aftermath.

Boba’s story was expanded further in a handful of episodes of the animated “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” After joining up with a crew of bounty hunters, a young Boba infiltrates a Republic vessel in the guise of a young clone cadet in order to avenge his father. After he fails, he is captured and sent to a detention facility. While details remain sparse, it’s shown that he goes back to being a bounty hunter once he’s free.

The "Mandalorian" connection

Sometime after surviving his close encounter with the sarlacc pit, Fett approaches Mandalorian Din Djarin (Pedro Pascal) to reclaim his armor, which he inherited from his father during the second season of "The Mandalorian."

During his adventure with Mando, Fett clears up one key detail fans have long wondered: Is he Mandalorian, or does he just wear Mandalorian armor?

According to Fett, his father Jango was given his armor by Mandalorians, raising the question of whether that makes Jango, and by extension Boba, Mandalorian or not. (Djarin, for example, is a foundling who was adopted and raised into Mandalorian culture.) As the first person to wear what is now recognized as Mandalorian armor in "Star Wars," Boba Fett ran ahead of the franchise's establishment of Mandalorian culture — and, complicating matters further, Jango's changing back stories have gone back and forth over the years as to whether he's actually Mandalorian. For what it's worth, Boba has never claimed to be Mandalorian.

Among other reasons, fans will be watching "The Book of Boba Fett" closely to see if it answers this question once and for all.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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